Swimming Legal Backstroke Flip-turns

Today, we’re going to review the backstroke flip-turn. Back when I was a competitive swimmer, we were not allowed to roll to our stomach on this turn. So, in learning how to complete this turn, I started by counting my strokes from the flags to the wall. For me it’s: one, two, three, four. Once I got my stroke count down, I subtracted one stroke for a stroke of freestyle, and I subtracted one stroke for the flip. So, as I swim in from the flags, it’s- one, two, freestyle, flip.

Now, if you’re a competitive swimmer, there are a number of ways that you can be disqualified on the turn. Delay initiating arm stroke, delay initiating turn, multiple freestyle strokes, not on back off wall, and you must resurface prior to the fifteen meter mark.

Delay Initiating Arm Stroke: As you reach forward on your one, allowed, stroke of freestyle, you must immediately pull through and initiate the turn. If your arm just hangs out there instead of immediately pulling through that is a disqualification.

Delay Initiating Turn: As soon as you finish your single, allowed, stroke of freestyle, you need to initiate the flip. Swimmers that kick with both arms down at their sides in order to get closer to the wall are guilty of “delay initiating turn”.

Multiple Freestyle Strokes: As indicated above, you are only allowed one single stroke of freestyle on your backstroke turn. If a swimmer takes more than on stroke of freestyle while heading into the wall on backstroke, this is a disqualification.

Not on Back Off Wall: Upon completing the flip, you need to leave the wall on your back. If the swimmer is not on their back as their feet leave the wall, this is a disqualification.

Fifteen Meter Mark: Today’s competitive swimmers are coached to dolphin kick under water off of their turns on freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly. However, the swimmer must resurface prior to swimming fifteen meters down the pool. This is usually indicated on the pool’s lane markers with a different colored lane buoy.

Now, this turn is tough on younger swimmers because they are taking a lot more strokes into the wall than an adult, and they’re always growing. Plus, depending on their level of fitness, their stroke count into the wall twenty-five yards into a hundred backstroke might be different than it is seventy-five yards into that hundred yard race. Still, if you practice, learn your stroke count, and swim hard into your walls, you can become successful at this turn.


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Written by Chris B.

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